Original series Suitable for all readers





The Garden - A 'Captain Scarlet' story for Halloween, by Chris Bishop


“I see you have decided to add the roses.”

The voice addressing her from behind startled the gardener; she rose on her knees, the secateurs in her hand and looked back; a tall man dressed in a red and black uniform was standing in the middle of the path, just two yards behind, looking at her with a smile on his lips.

“Oh, Paul, it’s you,” she greeted him with a smile of her own. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“Just arrived, in fact. Barely a few minutes ago.” With his hands in his pockets, he slowly walked to her, the white pebbles covering the path crushing underneath his steps. She turned back and leaned over the rose bush she was working on, to cut another stem from it. There already were a good number of dead flower heads spread on the ground beneath the multiple rose shrubs planted along the narrow path, indicating that she already had been busy with her trimming for quite some time. However, there were still numerous red roses adorning the shrubs. Many of them were already in full bloom, their petals a vivid red, with a center of golden stamens.

“It’s very beautiful,” he commented appreciatively. “You really have green fingers, Ariel.”

She smiled and straightened on her knees, turning back at him. She wiggled her fingers playfully. “I invented the term, dear boy,” she answered with a quiet laugh. “You like what I did with your roses, then?”

“Very much so. But they’re hardly my roses.”

“They do carry your name.” Ariel accepted his help to get back on her feet, and she methodically brushed the dirt from her knees and the front of her legs.

It was Paul’s turn to chuckle. “Well, they weren’t exactly named after me,” he pointed out. Thoughtfully, he looked down the long row of rose shrubs along this particular path of the large garden. “I think they were actually created a good hundred years before I took on the name ‘Captain Scarlet’.”

“Sixty-eight years, to be exact.” Paul turned back at his companion. She had done brushing her gardening pants, and she smiled up at him. “I know all about these things, you know.”

“Of course you would,” Paul mused.

He contemplated her with some curiosity, as she crouched down back to the ground, to put her secateurs into the box at her feet, and pick up her remaining tools. The large straw hat she always wore whenever she was working in the garden momentarily hid her beautiful face, and he could only see her long golden hair emerging from beneath. She was petite and delicate, and her white gardening gear was dirty in many places from the fresh soil she had been working in.

“Well, you know, these roses and I, we don’t share the same name now,” he commented. “I’m not ‘Captain Scarlet’ anymore. Haven’t been for years.”

“Of course, I know… Colonel.”

Ariel picked up her large toolbox and pushed herself back to her feet. The toolbox was very large, and looked like it could be too heavy for her to carry, and yet she lift it up with ease. She swiftly turned around and pushed it into Paul’s arms, imperiously, taking him by surprise. His knees buckled; the box was even heavier than he expected.

“Here. You now might be Spectrum commander, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to make yourself useful by giving a helping hand. Carry this for me, please.”

Paul smiled. He had to remember that despite all appearances, this ‘woman’ wasn’t exactly a woman after all. “Yes, Ma’am”, he replied, putting the strap over his shoulder. “With pleasure. As long as I can walk all the way through the gates with you this time?” he asked tentatively.

Ariel shrugged. “Maybe, my boy, maybe… But somehow I doubt it.”

Paul raised a brow, as they both started to slowly walk up the path. “You think not?”

“Believe me, I would know if you were allowed in this time,” Ariel replied. “We all would know. Everyone would be talking about it.”

Paul sighed. “Wouldn’t you be the one to tell me if it was the case?” he pointed out. “Seems like I’ve known you forever, Ariel. I keep coming to this garden, and you’re the one I always talk to. I walk these paths with you, chit-chat with you for a while… I even helped you at times with your gardening… And really, it’s not something I really like doing at all!”

“Don’t I know it,” Ariel replied, rolling her eyes. “You’ve been a difficult pupil, Paul… but you’ve been an apt one.”

“… And then I would leave, to return to my duties,” Paul continued.

“Well, anyhow, it gives me a familiar face to see every now and then,” Ariel commented. “I remember the first time you came here. That was…” She made a mental count. “Fifty years ago.”

“2068,” Paul confirmed. “I still remember that first meeting too.”

“As well you should. I was the first to greet you here. You looked so lost and shocked, to unexpectedly find yourself in this garden.”

“I felt like it, believe me,” Paul concurred, chuckling.

“And you were so disappointed when came the moment to go back.”

“Yeah, well…” Paul shook his head, without answering. “What else would you expect, really?”

“You know, with your frequent visits, you’ve become a regular fixture around here,” Ariel said. “You’ve become very popular with everyone, Paul.”

“Not popular enough to be allowed to go through the gates, though.”

Ariel sighed. She smiled kindly and patted her companion’s arm. “Don’t pout, my boy. The day will come soon enough.”

They had reached the highest point of the garden and they stopped. Temporarily putting the heavy box down at his feet, Paul looked around, to admire the view in reverent silence. This was a sight he would never get tired of seeing.

The immense garden spread in all directions, its ground covered with all assortments of plants and multicoloured flowers; nearly all of them were in full bloom and looked exquisitely fresh. There were large patches of perfect, vivid green grass adeptly disposed around, visibly well attended to, like the rest of the garden, and beautiful streams of fresh water and small pounds could be seen in places. The trees were tall and magnificent trees, and all covered with leaves. There were maples here, hemlocks there, oaks and birches scattered around, hawthorns, elms, sycamores, the occasional willows, and pines and spruces, thriving in every corner.

White benches and marble fountains decorated the grounds, strategically placed, along the multiple white pebble-covered paths, so that visitors could sit and relax and admire their surroundings. Paul remembered having sat on many of those benches during his all-too-frequent visits, to think and contemplate the meaning of his own life. On occasion, he would even chat with people he met while on their journey toward the gates that they would undoubtedly reach at the end of their path. Most of the time, these people were strangers to him, but once in a while, he would have the chance to meet someone he knew, admired or even loved. He was all too happy to exchange words with them – while at the same time, feeling sad that it was probably the very last time he would be able to do so.

At least, for a very long time.

Paul took a deep breath; the invigorating smell of the nearby flowers filled his nostrils. He let a deep sigh out, revelling in the moment. Then, he picked up the toolbox and, with Ariel at his shoulder, he started walking again, very slowly. “It’s so beautiful here,” he said, gazing around in complete admiration of his surroundings. “It is as if this place contained all of Creation…” He glanced sideways at his companion, before adding meaningfully: “Does it?”

“Why, Paul – what do you think?” Ariel replied. She looked perfectly innocent; that was something she did beautifully.

“Of course, without all of your hard work, it wouldn’t look that nice,” Paul added pointedly.

“Thank you for your kind words, Paul. But it’s hardly all my doing; I’ve got a lot of help.”

“You’re too modest. I know you’re in charge of everything.” Paul grinned. “One could say it’s in your nature.”

“Which is normal – I am the Angel of Nature, after all. And if you think this garden is beautiful, wait until you see how it is beyond the gates.” Ariel chuckled. “It’s to die for.”

“Ha-bloody-ha, Ariel.”

“Language, my boy, language… Don’t forget where you are. You should really behave. There are people around who can hear everything.” She leaned towards him and added, as if in confidence. “And I do mean this literally.

There was teasing in Ariel’s words; that didn’t stop Paul from scowling.

“What good will it do me to behave? It doesn’t look like I’ll be crossing those gates soon, anyway.”

 Ariel didn’t remonstrate with him this time. Glancing her way, Paul noticed her attention was focused dead ahead, and he looked in that direction. He saw a tall figure, a few yards away, standing at a junction where many paths met, leaning lazily on a long silvery walking stick. He had all the appearance of a young man in his early twenties, slender and athletic, with skin nearly as pale as milk, and hair as fair as that of Ariel, flowing freely on his shoulders. He was dressed all in white, while his arms and feet remained bare.

Recognising him, Paul inwardly groaned. Speaking of people who can hear everything, he commented inwardly. In all the years he had come to visit this place, Paul had met with him only a few times; on each occasion, he had felt the same uneasiness.

As Paul and Ariel came closer, he turned towards them and watched them approach. On his face was that same unfathomable expression of calmness that made it impossible to read what could be going on in his mind, or to even imagine what he could be feeling. His eyes, as gold as Ariel’s, looked deeply alive though, and seemingly burning with an internal fire. It was as if those eyes were able to see right through you, and into the deepest recess of your soul.

And perhaps, Paul pondered, it was exactly the case.

“Brother Azra,” Ariel said fondly, as they stopped in front of the young man. “I see you’re back from your latest travel.”

“Sister Ariel. Paul.” Azra’s voice had no perceptible inflection, and was a reflection of all his demeanour: calm, poised, without a single hint of inner passion. He nodded to Paul, who couldn’t decide if it was in salutation, or simply to acknowledge his presence. He tensed instantly. “I knew I would find you here,” Azra continued quietly.

“Where else would she be?” Paul said, gesturing around. “The garden is Ariel’s responsibility after all.” He was trying to sound upbeat to hide his discomfort. He felt as if he failed in his attempt, but Azra didn’t say anything; he simply tilted his head to one side. For just a fleeting moment, Paul thought he recognised a hint of curiosity in the way he was looking at him. If anything, it was even more discomforting.

Paul smiled, if a little awkwardly, and cleared his throat. “I’ll leave you two to it, then, if you must talk.”

In fact, at this very moment, he wanted nothing more than go away. He knew he had nothing to fear from Azra, though. From what he had gathered, Paul knew that he was possibly the most sensitive and compassionate of souls, and would never personally hurt a fly.

But when confronted with the Angel of Death himself, anyone, even a man who allegedly couldn’t die, was entitled to feel a little wary, wasn’t he?

He was about to walk away, when Azra spoke again: “No, Paul. I meant you.”

Paul stopped instantly. “Me?” he asked with uncertainty, looking straight into Azra’s face. The latter nodded, his expression still unreadable, and a suspicion crept into Paul’s mind. Unconsciously, his eyes turned in the general direction of the gates. He just then realised his stroll with Ariel had brought them closer to them. They weren’t that far now; he could see the glow of the doorway, just beyond those tall trees. A short walk, and they would be there. Yet, they appeared totally unreachable to him, exactly like for each of his previous visits.

He swallowed hard. It wasn’t as if he didn’t want to go through them. In fact, it was quite the contrary, and for quite some time now; possibly since his first visit, so many years ago. And as time went by, and he witnessed family and friends leaving to cross these gates, never to return, this eagerness to join them did nothing but increase. Each time he came to the garden, he had the chance to experience complete and utter peace and quiet; but unfortunately, it was always short-lived, ephemeral. It gave him a craving for more; and he knew that were he to walk through those gates, then peace would be ever-lasting. And more than that, he would be reunited with his loved ones.

Although he wanted that more than anything else, at the same time, he felt somewhat cagey. Once he had taken that step, he would never be able to go back. And he knew that, in the grand scheme of things, he still had some work to do, back to what he had come to describe as ‘home’.

 “It’s time, then?” he asked Azra, in a low, almost anxious voice.

But Azra shook his head to the negative. Paul didn’t know if he should feel disappointed or relieved. “No,” Azra answered, very quietly. “It is not yet time for you. However, for someone else, it is.  And I thought that, under the circumstances, you would like to say goodbye.”

Paul scowled, wondering who he meant exactly. By the sound of it, it appeared to be someone Azra thought he would desperately want to see one last time.  However, there weren’t that many people left to whom he would need to say goodbye. His parents had been gone for a long time. Most of his family too, and he didn’t really feel enough affinity with whoever was left to imagine for one instant he would miss them – or that they would miss him. 

He had lost his wife some time ago as well, quite a few years back, and the thought of finally being with her once more was one of the reasons he had felt some regret when Azra had told him it wasn’t his time yet.  As for his kids… Paul preferred to stay away from them, for more than one reason, and all of them were for their own good.  

As for friends – really close friends – well, there weren’t that many left either.

But… there still were a few someones to whom he felt really close. 

“Who…?” he started to ask, just as a suspicion formed in his mind.

In answer, Azra gestured, almost theatrically, towards one of the other paths. Even before he turned to look, Paul already knew he had guessed right – and even with the proof of his suspicion now displayed in front of his eyes, he felt something of a shock. He almost did a double take.

At the end of the path, some distance away from there, was a large marble fountain of flowing water. Standing by it was a tall blond man, who was so absorbed in the contemplation of the flowing jets of water that he had not noticed them.

Paul swallowed hard; the ball in his throat barely passed through. “Adam,” he uttered in a near whisper.

It was indeed Adam Svenson, his best friend, who stood there, only a few yards away. But not the Adam Svenson of these last years, not the frail old man time had gradually made of him. It was rather the same Adam of a time gone by, at the peak of his maturity, looking exactly as he did when they had met for the first time so long ago.

 “I wasn’t wrong in my assumption, then,” Azra commented, noticing how Paul was unable to tear his eyes from his old friend. “You do wish to have a last talk with him.”

“I… I thought I would never have the chance…” Paul shook himself. It seemed like weeks, months even, since he had spoken to his closest friend. He had been so busy with his work of late, too involved in the continuing fight that now defined most of his life, along with the various administrative obligations of his new functions as commander of Spectrum. He now had very little time for anything else.  In fact, that was a criticism he had heard all too frequently, almost as much from those working with him, than those who were his friends.  Adam had told him too, many times, not quite joking: ‘Don’t overdo it, Paul. Or you’ll drive yourself into an early grave.’

He sometimes wished it would be true.

And the last time Adam had actually said that was three months before… the accident.

God, how many times after that did Paul actually reproach himself with the same thing? He had lost count of that.  Because he allowed his work to take too much of his time, he missed the opportunity to see Adam and Karen more often than he really should have.

He could only feel regret to possibly never be able to talk to his closest friend again.

Until now…

He blew a deep sigh and turned a grateful smile to Azra. “Thank you, Azra,” he said softly. “You don’t know how much I appreciate it.”

At these words, Azra answered with a smile of his own. Since he had first met him, and during those rare few times they had crossed paths in this very garden, Paul had never seen him smile before. On the contrary, he seemed far too serious for his own good; not exactly cold, but somehow placid and too detached. Although looking like a very young man, his eyes reflected a soul that had seen too much already.  Paul had joked once, by confiding to Ariel, that Azra reminded him of a ‘Vulcan angel’.  It was in that occasion that Ariel had commented, rather matter-of-factly, that Azra, as the Angel of Death, had the facility of hearing everything that was ever said, even when he wasn’t around – and especially when it concerned him.

That was the only joke Paul ever made about him.

“I do know, Paul,” Azra answered quietly. “And I do know as well how it will pain you to see your friend depart the other plane of existence.  Especially, knowing that it might be quite possible that you won’t see him again for quite some time.”

“So I take it… I won’t be crossing the threshold of these gates anytime soon?” Paul asked carefully.

“Even I do not know that. The Presence has plans for everyone, Paul, but He didn’t confide in me as to what those plans were exactly for you. I just know that you still have some task to complete, before your time is done.” Azra pointed to the fountain. “Now go. For your friend, the time is nearing fast. Say your goodbyes to him. I’ll be waiting for him at the gates.”

Paul nodded his thanks again, and then turned around. He felt, more than he heard, as the two angels behind him departed, as he slowly made his way towards Adam, who still hadn’t noticed him.

He reached him, and stood slightly behind him. He then noticed the expression of perplexity on Adam’s face and realised that his friend wasn’t exactly looking at the flowing waters, but rather was gazing down into the water contained in the basin. It was obviously his own reflection that caused him such confusion.

Paul cleared his throat, making his presence felt. “Those were the days, weren’t they? How did the song go, exactly? ‘When we were young and unafraid’?”

His words seemed to draw Adam out of his reverie. It was only then that he seemed to notice Paul’s reflection in the water, next to his own. Slowly, he turned around. For a brief moment, he fixed Paul with a somewhat vague expression, as if he simply couldn’t recognise him straight away.

“Paul?” he finally asked, scowling lightly. “That really you?”

Paul flashed him a smile that he hoped would reassure him. “Hi, Big Blue. Yeah, it’s me.”

The next split second, Adam was in his arms, thumping his back vigorously, laughing and whooping with joy. Paul was smiling, as he returned his friend’s affection; in fact, he had always regarded Adam more like the brother he had never truly had, and he knew that Adam shared this feeling. Even with their differences, when they didn’t agree with each other, whenever they argued, got angry with one another, or when life pushed them apart, mostly due to Paul’s increasing responsibilities – while Adam was forced to finally put Spectrum behind him – they respected each other and remained close.

Finally, after a moment that Paul would have wished would last a good deal longer, Adam broke off and took a step back from him; he kept his hands on his friend’s shoulders, as if he was making sure he wouldn’t go away, and looked into his face, with a mixed expression of pure delight and puzzlement.

“It seems like it’s been ages,” Adam declared. “H-how are you? What have you been up to? You look good!” He pointed to Scarlet’s brow. “If I remember correctly, you were starting to show some grey at the temples. Where is it now? Don’t tell me you’ve dyed it – you told me it made you look more distinguished-looking!”

“You look good too, Adam,” Paul answered, evading his friend’s question.

“Don’t I!” Adam said with a chuckle. “I feel good too – better than I felt in many years!” His hand reached for his own face. “What happened to me? Why do I look so young?”

“Well…” Paul started. “Actually, you don’t… It’s more like a state of the mind…” He scowled at his own choice of words, and tried to remember how exactly Ariel had explained it to him, that first time around. “Or rather, more precisely, a state of the soul…”

“State of the soul?” Adam echoed with obvious mystification.

“Or the spirit, perhaps?” Paul corrected tentatively. Adam was still looking at him with deep confusion. “That’s the same reason I don’t appear to have grey hair right now,” he added. He grunted inwardly. He was no good at it – at least, not as good as Ariel, or any of those other angels… Truth to tell, they had eons of experience, while he barely had any.  He now wished one of them – preferably Ariel – had come with him for this part of the explanation.

Then he saw, in Adam’s eyes, that a thought was starting to form in his friend’s mind.

“Are you implying… that we’re dead? The both of us?” Adam gave a look around, and then leaned towards him. “Are we in Heaven?” he asked in a low voice, almost in a confidence.

Despite himself, Paul chuckled. “You’ve always been more of a believer than I was,” he commented. “But no – we’re not exactly ‘dead’. Not yet, anyway. And this is not exactly Heaven.”

“What is this place then?” Adam asked. He was growing impatient, obviously, but was making an effort not to show it.

Paul sighed. “This is Ariel’s garden,” he said simply, as if this was enough to explain everything.

Obviously, it wasn’t.

“Ariel’s garden – who’s Ariel?”

“The Angel presiding over Nature, as I was told. Which makes complete sense that she would take care of this place. I admit, I didn’t even know about her before finding myself here the first time.” Paul gestured around. “Isn’t it magnificent?”

“Yes…” Adam hesitantly answered, glancing around again. “Truly wonderful. Hang on… You mean the garden? Of Eden?” He looked at Paul, this time suspiciously. “According to myths it was supposed to be some kind of ‘Heaven on Earth’… No? Are we still on Earth?”

“Uh… No, not really, Big Blue. And for this place being the actual ‘garden of Eden’ I wouldn’t exactly know… Actually, it never occurred to me to ask Ariel. I suspect it’s a different thing. But then again, if it is the case, then I suppose you’ll find yourself perfectly at ease around here.” As Adam looked at him with an even more puzzled expression, Paul thought he needed to clarify his rather pathetic attempt at a joke: “You being called Adam and all…”

Adam scoffed. “Oh, please…”

“Maybe we could look around for that other Adam,” Paul continued. “If ever we find an old naked guy, hanging around an apple tree, then maybe that’ll be some kind of a proof.”

“Oh, come on,” Adam said in exasperation. “I might be a believer, but even I never bought that story!”

Paul grinned mischievously. God, how he missed these moments… “Point taken. Well, what I can really tell you of this place is, it’s known under many names. The Elysian Fields, for example. Arcady, Utopia… The Happy Hunting Grounds...”

“You’re still kidding me,” Adam breathed out.

Paul saw the same expression of vexation in his friend’s face as before and offered him something of a cheeky smile. Maybe it wasn’t the ideal time for joking around, after all. Azra might have awarded them a moment together, but he was sure it was limited.  

“More or less,” he conceded. “Maybe not the Happy Hunting Grounds, then… Okay, enough with the jokes. I’ve never been very good with them, anyway.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Adam groused.

“Will you walk with me?” With a gesture, Paul invited his friend to follow him. “We have some time before us, so we can talk for a while.”

Still unsure what he meant exactly, Adam hesitated, but only for a fraction of a second. Finally, he nodded, and accepted the invitation.

Both left the side of the large fountain, and started walking, very slowly. Paul deliberately chose the path he thought would lead them the furthest away from the gates as possible, although he wasn’t fooling himself much. He was fully aware that this choice would be of little consequence and that eventually, they would inevitably end up there anyway.

For a little while, there was no words exchanged between the two of them, Paul thinking that it was better to give Adam some time to acclimate himself with his surroundings and to process the little information he had received thus far. From the corner of his eye, he could see his friend looking around, with a rising admiration for the all the beauty that surrounded him. It took only a few minutes for him to become completely at ease.

This was indeed one of the many wonders of Ariel’s garden; just by being the splendour that it was, it could to put to rest even the most edgy of spirits.

“This is truly magnificent,” Adam said finally.

“It is, indeed,” Paul approved.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s so peaceful, so exquisite, so… I can’t even think of the right words to describe it.” Adam frowned, as, narrowing his eyes, he looked in all directions as far away as he could.

“Is something the matter?” Paul asked with curiosity.

“That’s so strange… I can’t seem to be able to figure out where this garden starts – nor where it ends.”

Paul chuckled. “You can look for all eternity, and walk just as long, you won’t reach the end of it. It’s exactly as if it was infinite,” he explained. “I should know, I walked these paths often enough already. But even though the garden seems to have no end, at some point, I always end up at the same place. It’s exactly as if the pathways, no matter what directions they went to, all lead to that ultimate goal.”

“Perhaps it is a metaphor for life itself?” Adam suggested. “No matter the choices we make, no matter the paths we follow, we’ll all eventually reach the same destination. And that destination is – death.”

“It took you less time to figure it out than I did,” Paul commented with a nod.

“So I was right, then. I’m dead.”

“And as I said earlier: no. You are not quite dead.” Paul sighed and lowered his head, thinking how he should put it. “But you soon will be. At this point, when you find yourself in this place – well, it’s pretty much irremediable.”

“What is this place exactly…? I know, you said it was ‘Ariel’s garden’, but you didn’t actually say where it was and what it was.”

“Where… Well, it’s not on Earth – whether you wish to call it the Garden of Eden or not.”


“Maybe it’s somewhere between life… and the afterlife.”

Adam frowned with incredulity. “Are you telling me we’re in some kind of Purgatory?”

Paul shook his head, but in reality, he was quite unsure how to describe the garden. He grunted again, in annoyance with himself for not being able to better explain what was going on, where they were exactly, and what would happen next. He lowered his eyes, carefully searching for the right words, before looking ahead.  He recognised where they were going now: as he had expected earlier, they were walking back in the direction of the gates, without them taking another path. That meant that Adam’s time was close by.

 He decided it was better to dive right in with the explanation, and pointed to the top of the small hill they were walking towards.

“You see that light over there, just beyond those trees?”

Adam looked in that direction. Half-hidden behind the foliage of tall sycamore trees, there was the faint glimmer of a light, dancing on the top of a large archway. He nodded his acknowledgement and Paul continued: “That’s the gateway. The garden is just at the threshold of it…  Or in the middle, whatever way you regard it. It’s never been very clear to me.  What I know is… well… the garden’s last step before going through the gates.”

Adam nodded slowly. If he understood, it didn’t show. If he had any doubt, it didn’t show either. Perhaps that revelation seemed all too natural to him. “And what do we find on the other side of this gateway?”

 “I don’t know. I’ve never been through the gates.”

“You think it’s Heaven?”

“I don’t know. Possibly. Whatever that might mean.” Paul shrugged. “I like to think it’s something similar, at least. If this garden is anything to judge by – it must be spectacular. At least, Ariel tells me it is.”

“You never went further than this garden, then?”

“No. Each time, it’s as far as I can go. I’ve never been allowed further. Because… Well… You know…”  Paul let the rest hang and smiled peevishly.

Adam nodded again. “Yeah, I know. From what you said earlier, I’ve gathered that you’ve been here already. How many times have you come?”

 Paul shrugged, a little sadly, and scratched his ear, thoughtfully. “More times that I really could recall. At almost each of my ‘deaths’, for the past fifty years. The first time… it was when the Mysterons engineered that accident that killed me, before they Mysteronised me. You can imagine I was very much confused.”

Adam chortled. “Oh, I can certainly relate with that. I feel exactly the same right now.”

“And I was even more surprised when I was told ‘No, not right away, sir.  You will have to wait a little bit longer.’” Paul shrugged again. “And I’ve been at it for the past fifty years.”

“I guess some would say… what is fifty years, compared to eternity, right?” Adam suggested.

Paul grimaced. “Not very reassuring, Blue Boy. I might wait a long time then!”

“Sorry,” Adam offered.

“Anyway,” Paul added with a dismissive shrug, “I was told I still have some task to complete down there.”

“The Mysterons, you reckon?”

“Perhaps. I imagine it must be, but I wish I knew for sure. Nobody would tell me more. In the meantime, I decided I’d be patient.” He caught Adam staring at him in a way that definitely said he didn’t believe him in the slightest; his friend knew all too well that he wasn’t a very patient man. He cleared his throat. “All right,” he admitted, “I did try to get a peek through the gates a few times.  But I never got to see anything. Blast.”

“And you never tried to force your way in?” Adam asked with a raised brow. He also knew his friend’s impetuosity was even worse than his impatience. Somehow the thought of Paul sitting at the gates of Heaven, being refused his way in by Saint Peter, didn’t quite compute. It made him snigger inwardly.

“That crossed my mind once or twice, but only for a fleeting moment,” Paul answered. “However it never went further than that. I mean, even without Uriel guarding the door…”


“He’s like the doorman, watching the gates. You don’t often see him, because he mostly stays inside. But you certainly know he’s there.  And if you see him – well, his an imposing figure, I can tell you that.  He’s an archangel, I was told. But even without knowing that, I wouldn’t pick a fight with him…”

“I seem to recall an angel by that name,” Adam mused. “Curious – the myths put Saint Peter as guardian of the Pearly Gates to Heaven…”

“Well, they’re not made of pearls – ”

“Carved from a giant pearl, rather.”

“Whatever. And there certainly isn’t an old man with a long white beard standing guard beside them,” Paul said, laughing. “That does seem like a cruel way to spend Eternity for a saint, doesn’t it?”

“I admit it does seem that way,” Adam replied, smiling lightly. “Why didn’t you mention this place, whenever you came back? You never did.”

“Oh well… that’s the irony of it,” Paul said with another short laugh. “The fact of the matter is, even if while here I remember each of my visits, when I’m back to… the other plane of existence, I never remember this place. So, that made it quite impossible to share these experiences with any of you guys.”

“A shame.  That would have saved us from wondering if there’s life after death after all.”  Adam gave it some thought. “But then again, that would remove any notion of Faith, if we were sure of that, wouldn’t it?”

“Provided you would have believed me to begin with,” Paul replied. “Wouldn’t that have made Doctor Fawn’s day, way back when, eh? He would have thought I was dreaming or going crazy! He was quite the pragmatist, our Edward.”

Adam laughed softly and nodded. “That he was. It was a shock when I learned of his death… about, what, ten years ago?”

“He lived a long and very fulfilled life, Adam,” Paul reasoned. “And I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying his just reward as we speak now.”

“He has gone through the gateway?” Adam asked with curiosity.

 “So I was told. Where else would he have gone? If nothing else, Edward was a good man – he certainly earned it.”  Paul sighed, regretfully. “Unfortunately, I was ‘alive’ when he died, so I didn’t get to meet him on his way over. Just like I’m doing right now with you.”

Adam nodded, thoughtfully. He looked down at his feet and for a moment, said nothing.  

Paul looked sideways at him. Visibly lost in thought, his friend was distractedly scuffing the pearly white pebbles covering the surface of the pathway. He seemed worried, and Paul had a feeling it was because he was wary of taking that fateful step through the gateway.

He patted Adam on the shoulder, attracting his attention.  “Don’t worry, Big Blue, everything will be all right.”

“You reckon?” Adam said with uncertainty. “Earlier, you said I wasn’t dead yet, but that once someone finds himself in this garden, it’s pretty much irremediable. Except for you, obviously. Because of your… condition.” As Paul nodded to the affirmative, Adam looked vaguely ahead. “Is it because you don’t want to die, Paul?”

“It doesn’t work that way for me, Adam,” Paul replied. “I’m not exactly given the choice.”

“And what if I didn’t want to die?” Adam insisted.

“I’m pretty sure you don’t have much of a choice either.”

“Don’t I?” Adam frowned. “How about those stories about people ‘returning’ to the land of the living, after a clinical death, for example? How about people living those so-called ‘out-of-body experiences’? To your knowledge, has anyone refused yet to go any further, once they arrived here? To simply turn on their heel and go back?”

“Constantly,” Paul replied calmly. “I’ve seen it happen here in this garden often, believe me or not. People are never ready to go, Adam. They panic.  They’re afraid of what they’ll find on the other side. They worry for the loved ones they leave behind. They always feel like there’s something calling them back. And yes, sometimes, some people go back – without having been Mysteronised, that is,” he added, good-naturedly.

He had hoped to defuse the tension somewhat with this joke, but Adam barely cracked a smile.  Seeing that, Paul stopped, and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, squeezing it in a reassuring way. “It’s true that sometimes, these people do have a lease on life,” he admitted. “But Adam, that never lasts. They always come back, eventually.”

“I know that…” Adam started to argue.

 “You lived a long, wonderful life, a healthy life – for years,” Paul continued, his voice now quiet. “You had an amazing wife, who loved you all through it.  You’ve had children and grandchildren… ” He waved his hand, helplessly. “Then that… accident had to happen, two months ago.”

“The accident?” Adam echoed, frowning.  At first, he looked like he didn’t know what Paul was talking about; it didn’t last very long.  Suddenly, it seemed to hit him, and it made him stop in his tracks.  “Oh, God, I remember…” With a grave expression, he turned to face Paul. “Was it really an accident?”

“If you’re thinking the Mysterons –”

“No, I mean – was it preordained?  If Fate’s already written… Was it meant to happen?”

Paul shook his head. “I don’t think anyone’s life is predetermined, Adam,” he said in a low voice. “I believe that, as humans, we have free will over our own destiny – to a certain extent.  No-one could have foreseen the driver of that car going too fast in that street. No-one could have foreseen that kid playing in that same street, running after his ball…  Or you, walking on the sidewalk at the same moment, and taking the decision to do your usual stuff – being a hero and rushing to save an innocent from being killed. You saved that kid, all right…”

“But the car hit me,” Adam finished.

Paul nodded. “And you hit your head, very badly. You were rushed to the hospital, but unfortunately, they were unable to wake you up. You already were in a coma…” Paul swallowed hard, finding it difficult to continue. “As soon as Karen called me, I came, as fast as I could.  It was fortunate that Cloudbase was so near at the time, so she needn’t be alone to face this. I was with her when the doctors came to tell her that… you would never wake up.”

“I’m glad you were by her side at that moment,” Adam said softly.

 “You should wait before saying that, you might change your mind,” Paul replied with a sombre tone. “These last two months you’ve been in that coma, Karen was almost always by your side. But me… Well, I probably should have been there with her, supported her, visited you more often but… I couldn’t.” He avoided Adam’s eyes, in an attempt to hide his guilt. “I won’t try to defend myself by telling you I was too busy with my duties with Spectrum, that the fight against the Mysterons was taken too much of my time… But the truth is…”

“You couldn’t handle it,” Adam realised suddenly.

Paul nodded sadly. “Seeing you lying in that bed, looking so frail, hooked up to that life support machine… that hit me pretty hard. You were unable to wake up, but at the same time, unwilling to let go of what little was left of your life – It was too much for me. I couldn’t see you like that… No matter how hard I wanted to…” His voice broke, and he felt the sting of tears brimming at his eyes. Adam was staring straight at him, impassively, without saying a word. The guilt overwhelming him, Paul let go of his friend’s shoulder, unable to face him anymore, and turned away.

“I’m sorry I was so weak…” he managed to say.

He was about to walk away when Adam reached for his arm and stopped him. He turned around to face his friend, who was now looking at him with deep affection, a sad smile tugging at his lips.

“I know how hard it was on you,” he said softly. “I remember the last time you came.”

“You do?” Paul asked with surprise.

“Yeah, I do. This old and decrepit body of mine – it might have been in a coma, but I could still feel you, and hear you – and see you. You stood there, by my bed, holding Karen in your arms, trying to reassure her. Poor Karen – she looked so frail, and yet, she never seemed so lovely to me. And you… you were crying. I don’t think I ever saw you cry before, Paul – maybe only once, when Dianne passed away.”

“I felt so helpless, seeing you like this,” Paul said with deep emotion. “I should have stayed there, by your side, by Karen’s side – and Spectrum be damned…”

“Stop beating yourself up. You couldn’t. You had a job to do. An important job.”

“That’s not much of an excuse.”

“It is for me. You came when Karen called. You were there when it counted the most, so – for that, I am grateful. I couldn’t expect you to be by her side always… Even if you wanted to, you would have been unable to. And knowing how hard this hit you… Paul, you’ve been the best friend a man could have ever wished for – no, better than that. You’ve been my brother, for all these years.” Adam’s smile broadened. “So don’t feel bad about anything, okay? There should be no bitterness between brothers. At least, none that should last. When all is said and done, they’re always there for each other and they’ll always love each other.”

Paul chuckled, slightly uncomfortable. “You’ll be able to test that out when you pass through those gates and meet with your brother Peter again.”

“He’s there?” Adam said, arching a brow. He gave it some thought. “I take it back. I forgot about Cain and Abel.”

This time, Paul laughed out loud. With a gesture, he invited his friend forward, and the two of them resumed their walk. “You’ve always been better at cracking a joke than I was, Blue.”

“Ah, but the best amongst us was certainly Rick,” Adam replied playfully. “Will he be there as well?”

“I heard Lucifer double-locked his gates when he heard about Rick being on his way to the afterlife…”

Adam rolled his eyes. “Oh, that one’s better already.”

His smile wavered then. Still hesitating, he looked in the direction Paul had indicated to him earlier – towards the doorway he could see shining through the trees. Deducing he was still apprehensive, Paul patted his arm encouragingly.

 “You’ll be in good company, Adam,” he said. “All of those who had passed in the last years are there. Your parents, of course. Karen’s mom. Charles. Brad and Juliette. Rick. Dianne.” His voice caught in his throat, just stating the name of the woman he had loved so much and whom he missed so dearly. He now had Adam’s complete attention. “They’re all waiting for you.”

Adam nodded. “Since the accident, I’ve been nothing but a burden for Karen. If I go – ”

“She would never consider you a burden to her, Adam.”

“She would certainly deny it,” Adam conceded with a fond smile. He sighed. “I’ll miss her. I’ll miss the kids…”

 “They’ll be joining with you in time,” Paul said softly.

“I’ll miss you too.” Adam looked squarely at him. “God, will I miss you, brother. You’ll join us there as well, I hope?”

It was Paul’s turn to hesitate. “I guess. I hope. Eventually, I should be able to go beyond this garden and join you all. I don’t know when, though.” He pushed his hands into his pockets. “Could be tomorrow. Could be a long time coming.”

“But in the meantime, we won’t be seeing you.”

Paul offered a sad smile. “Maybe if you peek through the gates, you might catch me walking down these paths.” He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. “I will miss you too, Big Blue. More than you’ll ever know.”

They had nearly reached their destination and Paul stopped, compelling Adam to do the same. He knew that that the gateway was right at the turn of the pathway, though they could not see it at the moment. Azra was there, leaning against the parapet of a marble fountain, hugging his walking stick, apparently waiting patiently. He addressed a nod to Paul, who understood that it was now time for his friend to go.

He cleared his throat and turned to Adam. “Right. You’ll have to continue with Azra from here on. He’ll guide you through the gateway.”

“Azra?” Adam repeated, surveying with some suspicion the serious-looking young man who was now approaching them.

“Otherwise known as Azrael, psychopomp of the Presence,” Azra officially presented himself. He smiled reassuringly. “Do not be afraid, Adam Svenson. The step into the next plane of existence is a most exhilarating one.”

“How about Paul?” Adam asked. “Can’t he be allowed to come as well?”

“Unfortunately, Paul has to follow a different path – for now.” This time, Azra turned to face Paul: “It is also time for you to return to your life, Paul.”

“Your timing’s always sucked, Azra,” Paul commented not without irony.

“I only guided people through the gates. I do not push them away. But one day, Paul Metcalfe, I’ll be there for you.” Azra smiled at him, with the most genuine smile he was able to conjure. “Do not worry. We will not forget you.”

“That is very reassuring.”

As Azra slowly walked the short distance back to the turn of the path, Paul turned to Adam again. He felt a deep emotion, to face him this way, one last time; he knew indeed that he would never see his friend before he was allowed through the gates in his turn.

He presented his hand and with a trembling voice said, “Well, I believe it’s time for us to say goodbye, brother.”

Adam looked at the professed hand for a few seconds; then he ignored it, took a step forward and wrapped his arms around Paul, to squeeze him close to his heart. Paul held him too, patting his back warmly. He could feel the tears prickling at his eyes; he couldn’t help feeling sad that he was losing his friend – and relieved at the same time that his hard journey was now at an end, and that he was going to a better place.

“For an eighty-five-year-old geezer, you certainly have enough strength in your arms, Big Blue,” he said, hiding his excess of emotion behind pleasant banter. They broke away and Paul looked into his friend’s eyes. “I promise you, there’s no Mysterons beyond that gateway to spoil your afterlife.”

“Look after Karen, will you?” Adam requested, his throat tightening.

“Sure. I’ll make sure she’ll get through this ordeal and will never be in need of anything. Especially of a friend’s shoulder to support her.” Paul lowered his eyes briefly. “If you see – when you see Diane… Can you give her a message from me?”


“Tell her that I still love her very much, that I keep thinking of her every day… And that I can’t wait to be back with her soon.”

“I’ll tell her.”

Adam squeezed his friend’s shoulder one last time, before finally leaving him to join Azra, who was waiting for him just at the turn of the path, his current demeanour clearly indicating that it had become imperative for them to be on their way.

“We must be going.” Azra gently took Adam’s arm, and pointed forward with the point of his walking stick. Adam nodded his acknowledgement but barely looked ahead; one last time, he turned towards Paul, who stood exactly where he had left him.

“You know another name that can be given to this garden, Paul?” he asked with a slick smile. “The end of the rainbow… Don’t you think it fitting?”

Paul chuckled.  The smile he offered was a sad one. “It’s fitting all right,” he agreed.

“We’ll be waiting for you, Paul,” Adam promised solemnly. “No matter how long it’ll be. Goodbye, my friend!” He waved, and finally, if somewhat reluctantly, let Azra lead him down the new path.

Paul waved back. “Goodbye, Adam!” His own voice seemed now to echo all around him, and a white radiance started to envelope him, making the faraway landscape gradually disappear from his view. It was seemingly becoming more opaque by the second. He knew what it meant; he was on his way back home.

He waved again, more briskly, as if he was now a great distance away from his friend. “I promise, I’ll be joining you!” he found himself almost shouting. “And then, believe me, mate – we’ll throw one hell of a party!”

 Paul just had the time to witness the faint smile of amusement tugging Adam’s lips as he engaged the path, before the light completely swallowed him. He felt the presence of Ariel beside him, and her voice, tutting at him: “Mind your language, Paul,” she chastised him in a falsely stern voice, which now seemed disembodied, and very far away. “You know we don’t approve that kind of language in here…”

But at this point, Paul barely heard her; his head feeling like cotton, he turned away from the way Adam Svenson had left and took one step in the other direction. There was nothing around now but the white light, which engulfed him completely –

… And then, just like it happened so many times before, it was as if he was falling deeply asleep.


“… know we don’t approve that kind of language in here, Captain…”

Scarlet opened his eyes. He took a deep breath and surveyed his surroundings. He was lying in his usual bed in Cloudbase’s sickbay. Standing by his side, he could see Captain Blue and the Spectrum’s chief medical officer, who were looking down at him with the same kind of relief on their faces.

“Finally! You deigned to finally return from the dead. Do you know you’ve been out for ten hours this time?”

“What a welcoming committee,” Scarlet muttered with a slurred voice.

He had noticed the hint of worry in the physician’s voice, and could only imagine that his grouchiness was his way of demonstrating his concern towards him. He pushed himself up to sit on the bed, and as he did, he felt a wave of dizziness hit him. His throat felt dry; instantly, he reached for the glass of water that was always on the table by his bed, ready for him whenever he woke up from retrometabolic sleep.  It was Captain Blue who gave it to him, and he downed it to soothe his parched throat.

“Are you feeling all right, sir?” Captain Blue’s voice was soft, almost tender. Scarlet felt her hand lingering on his, a little longer than was strictly necessary. He raised his eyes to meet hers. Quickly, she removed her hand, the red coming to her ears at the intense way he was looking at her.

“I’m all right, Captain,” Scarlet answered with a thin smile. “Just very hungry, that’s all. You know I’m always hungry when I wake up after retrometabolisation.” He glanced at Doctor Maroon. “Ten hours, you say? No wonder I’m famished! I hope you have ordered a good meal for me from the officers’ canteen.”

Maroon grunted. “It’s no joking matter, Colonel Scarlet,” he replied, his voice still very much gruff. “You’re taking more time to heal than you used to. From Doctor Fawn’s papers, you used to take, what, six hours max, before you would be back on your feet?”

“Well, sometimes more, in extreme conditions,” Scarlet remarked. “Won’t you consider what happened to me in this mission extreme, Doctor?”

“I admit that falling from nearly Cloudbase’s height and crashing your plane to near oblivion was no picnic,” Maroon said. “So I’ll give you that one.”

“Did we win?” Scarlet suddenly asked Blue, barely taking any notice of the doctor’s last comment. “Is everyone all right?”

“Yes, sir. Futura Airport has been saved, thanks to your quick thinking. No life was lost, except for the Mysteronised pilot of that bomber, who planned to crash his craft on the terminal.”

 “You should not have been there to begin with,” Doctor Maroon insisted. “Colonel Scarlet, haven’t you heard a single word of what I said? The time where you slept six hours whenever you were fatally injured is long past. Now it’s up to seven – even eight… That might be an indication of something.”

“So I’m growing old,” Scarlet replied. “So I’m slowing down. Happens to all of us.”

He pulled off the sheet and swung his legs off the bed – carefully, as he felt lightheaded, and feared that going up too quickly would cause him to fall face first to the floor. He caught his reflection in the small mirror on the table, noticed the grey at his temples, mixing with his dark hair, and the faint lines around his eyes and the corner of his mouth. Yes, he was growing old – but much slower than any normal human being, certainly. At just over eighty, he still looked like a man in his early forties.

Starting to feel a little more tired than I used to, as well…

He rubbed the stubble on his face and grimaced. “Captain, have someone fetch me a razor, will you? There’s no way I’ll be strolling the hallways of Cloudbase looking like this. And have my meal delivered to my quarters… Oh, and Laura… join me, please. I need a report on what’s been going on since I crashed that plane, ten hours ago.”

“Yes, sir. By the way, sir…”

“You are not just any of us,” Maroon suddenly interrupted before Blue could continue. “You forget that you’re not a field agent anymore. You’re Spectrum commander, for crying out loud. You have to act in a responsible way, befitting your rank. That means you shouldn’t get involved in dangerous missions and continually risking your life the way you do.”

 “We’ve been over this before,” Scarlet replied, glaring at him. Since he had received command of Spectrum, many years ago, he had heard this same argument over and over again through the years, and the man standing in front of him, and his two predecessors before him, were not the only people to give him that talk.  “I’d been acting commander of Spectrum for many years before you were assigned as our chief medical officer.  I know what I’m doing, and I know my limits. You should trust my judgment.”

“Oh, I trust your judgement. I just don’t trust your damn impetuosity!”

“Now, Fergus –”

“You know I don’t endorse this habit of yours, Colonel,” Maroon interrupted. “And considering that your retrometabolism is visibly starting to slow down, I think you are now putting yourself at a greater risk. I was thinking that it might be time for me to write to the World President about this state of affair. I thought he might be able to put a stop to it.”

“You wanted to put me on report?” Scarlet said with a scowl.

“He had just informed me of his intentions,” Captain Blue said, “just before you woke up sir.  I was against it, and I told him.” She eyed Doctor Maroon with a somewhat evil eye. “In no uncertain terms.”

“Oh, was it what I heard when I woke up, then?” Scarlet asked. “I knew I can always count on you to take my defence, Laura.”

“I will always, sir.  For the greater good of Spectrum.”

Maroon rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. How could that be for the greater good of Spectrum? There’s nobody who knows the Mysterons like you do and you’re invaluable to this fight. You take too many risks, Paul. What would happen to Spectrum – to Earth – if we were to lose you?”

“Then my second-in-command would take over,” Scarlet replied with just the hint of irritation, gesturing at Captain Blue standing by him.

“At the risk of sounding like I don’t have any confidence in Captain Blue’s competence – which is not the case, my dear, I assure you,” Maroon said addressing a nod to the younger woman, “she’s not you, Colonel.”

“Nobody’s me, Fergus,” Scarlet replied in a softer voice. “Frankly, would you have me take abstraction of my gift and instead risk someone else’s life in a suicide mission, while knowing that I would more than likely survive? You might consider I’m not a good commander because you say I risk my life –”

“I never said you weren’t a good commander,” Maroon quickly defended himself.

“ – But consider this,” Scarlet continued without missing a beat, “I’d be an terrible one if I was to send men and women to their death, thus needlessly depleting Spectrum forces in the continuous war against the Mysterons. I hate unnecessary death, so if I can do anything to spare even one precious life, I’ll do it.” He looked squarely at Maroon. The physician was glaring at him, but at least, he wasn’t arguing. “Even if you don’t agree with my method, I know you at least agree with that position, Doctor. And you can dispute that I’m right.”

Doctor Maroon rolled his eyes and sighed. “How many years will you be able to keep that up?” he asked.

“The Mysterons also are getting weary of this. We dealt them many devastating blows these last months. They’re growing more desperate, especially since we’ve started to bring the fight to them, on Mars. After fifty years, maybe they’ll be ready to accept a truce… The war will soon be over, I can feel it in my bones. ”

“Heaven hears you on this, Colonel,” Maroon groused. He sighed. “I hope you’re right.”

“Are you still planning to inform the World President?” Scarlet asked him.

Maroon waved dismissively. “I was only thinking of doing it if you didn’t wake up soon. But you’re on your feet now, so I guess there’s little point in me doing it at the moment.  Beside, the way I know him, he would probably present me the same arguments you did, say that we not only need you as Spectrum commander, but also need your special abilities in the fight against the Mysterons, and would reiterate his faith in you doing the right thing. I fear he’s only using you, Colonel.”

“He doesn’t care about me the way you do, Doctor,” Scarlet said with a near chuckle.

“At least, you seem to realise that I have only your best interests at heart.”

Scarlet smiled at him. “I never doubt that for a moment, Fergus.”

“Sir,” Captain Blue then swiftly slipped in. “I was trying to tell you – while you were out, we received an important call for you.”

“Important call?” Scarlet repeated. “Apparently not from the World President…”

“No, sir. I already talked personally with the WP a few hours ago, and he thanks you for Spectrum’s intervention in Futura… No, this other call, we received it barely an hour ago. It was from Mrs Svenson.”

“Mrs…?” It took a fraction of a second for Scarlet to realise who Captain Blue was referring to. Even after all these years, it was still hard for him to think of Karen Wainwright as “Mrs Svenson”.

Instantly, he had a feeling of foreboding. The former Symphony Angel didn’t call often, and the last time she did, two months before, it was to report bad news. He now had the dreadful feeling that something had gone from bad to worse. One look at his second-in-command’s grave expression was enough to confirm it was the case. She knew the special bond between her commander and the Svenson family.

“How did she sound?” he asked her pointedly.

She shook her head. “Not very good, sir.”

She presented a phone to Scarlet, already knowing that he would ask for it. For a time, he simply stared at it, undecided if he should take it or not.

“Adam,” he uttered in a low voice.

His old friend had been in a coma for months after being hit by a car; considering his age, and the severity of his wounds, Scarlet didn’t dare think that he had awakened – especially not after what Captain Blue had just told him. In any case, the doctors had not been very hopeful in that prospect, and had even announced to Karen that her husband had suffered considerable brain damage. In fact, they had encouraged her to remove him from life support barely two weeks before, and she finally agreed to it, with a heavy heart, knowing that her dear Adam would rather be dead than living the rest of his life in this bed. Against all expectations, however, once the apparatus had been removed, he kept on breathing on his own… and living.

But now, Scarlet thought, it could only be the end.

He took the phone, his hand slightly trembling. He cleared his throat, and looked at Blue. “Have a SPJ ready within the hour,” he instructed her.  “I’m going to Boston.”

He didn’t wait for her acknowledgement and without any more delay, keyed in the number he knew by heart. If the worst had happened, then Karen would need his support in the coming days.

There was but one ring and he heard the swift and soft response at the other end. “Karen, it’s me,” he announced gravely.

“Paul… Oh, Paul, it’s so good to hear your voice. I’m so glad you called so quickly…” Karen’s voice was low, and quivering. He could barely recognise it. He heard a sob, quickly stifled. “Paul, I have bad news… It’s Adam…”

“He’s gone, right?”

“Yes, just a couple of hours ago…” Karen’s voice was subdued, and so very sad. And yet, it sounded somehow resigned. After many weeks of seeing her husband in a coma, she was probably relieved to see his suffering finally come to an end. Scarlet heard a sniffle. “I was by his side, holding his hand and… Paul, I could have sworn, just for a brief moment before the end, he awakened… and he squeezed my hand and smiled at me… And then… he died… very peacefully.”

 Scarlet sighed. He felt strangely serene, and yet sad to hear about his closest friend’s passing. “Cloudbase is near the Eastern Coast, I’ll be in Boston in a few hours,” he announced. “I won’t leave you to go through this all alone, love.”

Thank you,” was the weak answer he received. “You don’t know how much it means to me.”

“That’s what Adam would have wanted,” Scarlet softly replied.

“Yes… Yes, he would have wanted that. Paul… For what it’s worth… I believe he’s gone to a better place.”

Scarlet nodded solemnly, as if agreeing with Karen’s comments. She knew he didn’t exactly share hers and Adam’s beliefs of an afterlife, at least not exactly in the way they possibly envisioned it. With his retrometabolism constantly at work, bringing him back to the land of the living at each mission that had gone wrong, it was difficult for him to conceive that there might be something other after death. After all, if there really was, he possibly would have found out by now…

But somehow, something in Karen’s words at this moment was ringing true to him. If there was some kind of afterlife after death, a heavenly place where there would be only peace and quiet, then Adam certainly deserved to find himself there.

In his mind’s eye, he was envisioning a very beautiful place; a vast garden, with trees and flowers always in bloom, with green grass, fountain marbles and paths made of white pebbles. And there, at the distance, he could see a large, shining gate, with its door wide open.

It was a real paradise. Found at the end of a rainbow…

He didn’t know where his imaginative mind had conjured this image from, but if it was how he imagined Heaven, than it was a place befitting his friend.

“Yes, Karen,” he replied, hearing the muffled sobs at the other end of the line. “As for myself, I don’t only believe it. I’m sure of it.”

His words were sincere, even he didn’t exactly know from where came that sudden conviction. Something inside of him was telling him he was right.


The End



Author’s notes:


This story, which was in my mind for a couple of years, finally seemed to come to complete fruition this year, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Captain Scarlet. It seemed a good idea to use it for this year’s Halloween. 


‘The Garden’ isn’t the first attempt of displaying Captain Scarlet in the afterlife, and interacting with otherworldly characters.  Double Booking, written by Clya Brown is a fine example of such story – and predates my story by many years, as does Frequent Flyer, by Hazel Köhler, and her Death and the Captain, which might not brings Captain Scarlet exactly in Heaven’s Doors, but nonetheless gives Captain Scarlet the chance to meet another supernatural entity that certainly enormous weight. I have to thank both authors for the clearing the path with their stories and for the inspiration they provided.


Additional thanks to Hazel Köhler for beta-reading this story.  If there are some mistakes left, they’re entirely my own.


Many thanks as well to Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, and all those who worked with them for the creation of ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’, a TV series that is still beloved by many, 50 years after its initial broadcast on UK television.


Happy 50th anniversary, Captain Scarlet – may you have many more to come!


Chris Bishop

November 2017.










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